In conversation with Gretchen Filart

Our readers would like to know your inspiration (or story, if any) behind Self-eating.

Self-eating was originally written with another eco poem in December last year, during the 25th hour of an ecopoetics sub call by petrichor. The other poem was accepted. This was turned down. A few days later, I found the sub call for THR’s Issue 1 and decided to send it.

I’ve always wanted to write a poem that will translate this heartbreak, this grief I feel toward the state of the environment, particularly the perils of plastic pollution, without sounding preachy. So I wrote from the lens of a mother, with the knowledge that everything my daughter takes in from this earth, from the air she breathes to the water she swims in, even the breastmilk that nourished her for years, contains microplastics. That’s how Self-eating came about.

Tell us more about your creative process in general.

Dora Kamau, one of my favorite meditation teachers, says, “When a feeling arrives, the class is in session.” That’s my creative process in a nutshell. I am a huge feeler, and most of my pieces start from a strong, central feeling. Outlines are an alien concept to me. I simply allow myself to write whatever comes to me messily, incoherently, shamelessly, and honestly. Sometimes I begin by writing the end of a poem or an essay and work my way backward. Sometimes I begin with the precursor to an event. I don’t usually have a set vision of where I’m going with a piece. I let the feeling guide me to the destination, instead of me taking it there. No editing happens on the first draft - that comes much later, and only as needed — once I am done processing the feeling. So essentially it’s a “no-process” process, which is incredibly liberating.

Do you have any creative influences? What do you like the most about their work? Does it have a discernible effect on your writing?

I am drawn to those who write vulnerably and rawly, using conversational everyday language. Sometimes, it’s tender writers like Mary Oliver, Naomi Shihab-Nye, Ocean Vuong, and Andrea Gibson. Sometimes I like ‘em edgy: Clementine Von Radics, Kim Addonizio, Ama Codjoe, Danez Smith. Though, my favorite poets come from the immediate literary community I interact with: Nerisa Del Carmen Guevara, Heather Ann Pulido, Shikha Lamba, Celine Murillo, Karlo Sevilla, Alyza Taguilaso, Debmalya Bandyopadhyay, THR’s Tej and Ankit, Jeff Wiliam Acosta — so many!

I am constantly evolving, constantly being inspired by other writers, learning and picking up bits and pieces, be it voice or technique, from what I’m currently reading. But I think the larger, more critical impact that reading others has on me and my writing is it helps me become more in touch with my humanity. Reading differing experiences helps me introspect, gain awareness of myself, of others, and the society I move in, and be more in tune with this existence. Ultimately, it inspires and empowers me to be of better service to this world through craft. 

Are there any creative genres, forms, themes, techniques etc. you wish you could employ in your writing which you haven’t yet?

Fiction writing. Creating imaginary characters is a challenge for me. I read fiction but I rarely write it. The most I can do is flash autofic. The rest are personal narratives and poems. 

I’d also love to learn more languages and dialects, especially from the Philippines, so I can infuse them into my writing and perhaps do translation work.

What are you looking forward to in your creative career?

A book… books. To be able to subsist solely on creative writing so I have more time to read, take walks, and write whatever the hell I want - preferably under a tree. To never look away and keep writing from a place of courage, honesty, and compassion, for as long as my body permits.

Gretchen Filart is a writer from the Philippines, where she weaves poems and essays about motherhood, love, healing, nature, and intersectionalities. A Best of the Net nominee and finalist in Phoebe’s 2023 Spring Poetry Contest, her work shares space in Rappler, Defunkt, Door Is A Jar, Barely South Review, and others. Connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, and Bluesky @gretchenfilart, or via her website, She’s usually friendly.